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No Child Left Behind Act's Adequate Yearly Progress Goals

The No Child Left Behind Act requires that schools demonstrate that each student is on grade level, in key areas such as math and reading, by 2014. Schools that cannot demonstrate this proficiency stand to lose federal funding. States must set goals which will demonstrate schools are making "adequate yearly progress" (AYP) in math and reading on the way to the 2014 deadline. Initially only math and reading/language arts were required to be assessed. By the 2007–2008school year, science assessments were required to be administered at least once during grades 3-5, grades 6-9, and grades 10-12.

States set their own minimum levels of improvement, which must be measurable in terms of student performance. School districts and schools must achieve these minimum levels within NCLBA time frames. States select a "starting point" based on the performance of its lowest-achieving demographic group or of the lowest-achieving schools in the state (the higher of the two). The state then sets a level that schools must reach after two years to show adequate yearly progress. After that, subsequent thresholds are set for at least every three years. As states raise their target goals over time, increasing numbers of students are expected to meet them. After 12 years, all students in the state are expected to attain the proficient level on state reading and math assessments.

School districts are required to make an annual report to the public. This NCLBA report card describes academic achievement for the district at large, for each individual school, and by grade level. The report cards classify student performance as basic, proficient, or advanced. Moreover, the report cards disaggregate the data by student subgroups according to: race, ethnicity, gender, English language proficiency, migrant status, disability status and low-income status. All students must be evaluated, and each subgroup must meet the AYP goals or the school as a whole fails. A district's report card also tells which schools have been identified as needing improvement, corrective action, or restructuring.

NCLBA requires states to provide academic achievement awards to recognize schools that close achievement gaps between groups of students or that exceed academic achievement goals. States may also use Title I money for financial rewards for teachers. Schools that have made the greatest gains in closing the achievement gap or in exceeding achievement goals receive the designation of "distinguished schools."

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